This essay examines Orientalism within the context of Edward Said’s works and the contemporary critical debates around them. Inspired by Erich Auerbach, Said strove to conceive of humanism as overcoming the European imperialist legacy. Yet not only does Said fail, he also seems to not notice how his version of humanism is appropriated by nationalists around the world. The greatest contradiction lies in the fact that Orientalism adopts a Foucauldian genealogical approach while carrying out a philological analysis. To illustrate the complicity between philology, colonialism, and nationalism, including Nazism, Nichanian sketches a genealogy of the figure of the native. The latter emerges as the eighteenth-century British jurist and linguist William Jones compiles and translates legalistic texts from India to be able to govern the “natives” by their own laws and in so doing invents the figure of the native as incapable of knowing his or her own past and law.
Philology from the Point of View of Its Victims
Marc Nichanian, a philosopher and literary critic born and educated in France, has taught in the United States (Columbia University), France, Italy, Lebanon, Turkey, and Armenia. Publishing extensively on Hagop Oshagan, Yeghishé Charents, Zabel Yessayan, and other Armenian writers, and translating into Western Armenian Benjamin, Nietzsche, Agamben, and Foucault, Nichanian elaborates a discourse of survival beyond humanistic theories of subjectivity.
Narine Jallatyan is currently working on her MA in psychology (marriage and family therapy) at the University of the West, California. She was born and raised in Armenia and moved to the United States when a teenager. She has a master’s degree in comparative literature from UCLA, where her subjects of interest included postcatastrophic experiences of displacement in Armenian and Caribbean poetry.
Marc Nichanian, Narine Jallatyan; Philology from the Point of View of Its Victims. boundary 2 1 February 2021; 48 (1): 177–206. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8821473
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